One of my favourite diversions, when stalled on writing, is to search Google Books for examples of the use of similes. I set the search?”, like a”?for books in full view, published between 1600 and 1800.
This is a bit like priming the pump, but I find, in this way, as well, that I learn quite a bit about the period: how rural it generally is, for example, and how thundering the preachers were.
Here’s one charming example:
To know how to Divide one’s Life, like a Man of Tarts.
Many of the images have to do with moon- and starlight; in our well-lit world, we are not as aware of it:
like a gleam of light, amidst the dark verdure of the forest…
like a burning star falling
the moon came out of the sea like a spectre wan and vapoury
Images from the natural world are prominent:
like a woodcock caught in his own springe
like a little mole in the dark
I found him under a tree, like a dropp’d acorn.
stared like a stuck pig
its hair bristling like a hog
like a hare shot in form
like a rapacious vulture
like a beast of prey that tramples and howls
vex’d like a morning eagle
Did I know that eagles were vexed in the morning?
A number call up images of ghosts, spirits and the devil:
glides like a ghost
sneered like a devil
like a demon thing, or shadow hovering
passed from before her eyes like a phantom
I loved this:
that low sweet voice, like a widow’s moan
And this one is a puzzle:
That marriage is just like a Devonshire lane.